Lady Gaga vs. Madonna
Lady Gaga has been saddled with comparisons to Madonna since the very start of her career – they even played rivals in a 2009 Saturday Night Live sketch – but the match-up stopped being a laughing matter when Mother Monster released "Born This Way" in January 2011. Some felt the tune sounded an awful lot like Madonna's 1989 hit "Express Yourself" – including Madge herself, who wasn't shy about making the connection.
"I said, 'That sounds very familiar,'" she told 20/20 correspondent Cynthia McFarrden of hearing Gaga's song for the first time. "I certainly think she references me a lot in her work. ... Obviously, I've influenced her." She drew the line at calling it a full-on steal, instead delivering a much more nuanced body blow: "It feels ... reductive." When McFarrden asked whether that was a good thing, Madonna replied, "Look it up," before sipping tea from a china cup.
She was less subtle in a July 2012 appearance on Brazilian TV, cracking, "I'm a really big fan of ['Born This Way']. I'm glad I helped Gaga write it," but Lady Gaga vehemently denied all accusations. "If you put the songs next to each other, side-by-side, the only similarities are the chord progression," she protested in NME. "It's the same one that's been in disco music for the last 50 years."
Madonna prodded at the controversy throughout her 2012 MDNA tour, which included a mash-up of "Express Yourself" and "Born This Way" featuring the refrain "She's not me." That wouldn't be her only musical comment. When more than a dozen demos were leaked in December 2014, fans zeroed in on a track called "Two Steps Behind Me," which appears to address the feud. The lacerating lyrics include lines like "You're a copycat/Where is my royalty," and "Did you study me hard enough?/You're never gonna be/You're just a wannabe me."
Tired of the back-and-forth, Gaga attempted to downplay the beef on Howard Stern's radio show. "There's this thing with some people that I'm a threat to the throne. And I don't want your fucking throne and no thanks. And I have my own and I don't actually want a throne at all." On this last point, they were finally in agreement. "I don't think she wants my crown," Madonna said of the "boring" feud in Rolling Stone's 2015 cover story. "We live in a world where people like to pit women against each other."
Sisterhood ultimately brought the two closer together. When Madonna delivered an impassioned speech against sexism and misogyny at the Billboard Women in Music awards in December 2016, Gaga applauded her via Twitter. "Your speech … was inspiring. You're so brave & strong. Thanks for being that for us girls we need that."